Fox Chase Physicians Offer Tips on Virtual Fellowship Interviews

PHILADELPHIA (August 4, 2020)–Physicians at Fox Chase Cancer Center have published an editorial outlining how they conducted virtual recruiting interviews for their surgical oncology fellowships, a publication they say is one of the first of its kind.

By conducting interviews virtually, the authors wrote, they were still able to clearly replicate their “normal” interview day and understand the strengths of each individual applicant and assess their candidacy for the fellowships. Keys to success included having a clear interview schedule, having backup phone numbers for all candidates, and an emphasis on interview timeliness for both interviewers and candidates.

In-person meetings have long been the norm for a fellowship’s hiring process and virtual interviews were seldom routine. “There’s a fear that you’re going to miss out on a lot of those things that are not spoken, things you can’t pick up on by reading a piece of paper or watching a video presentation,” said Maureen V. Hill, MD, a co-author of the editorial and a senior fellow in the Complex General Surgery Oncology (CGSO) program. She will join the Fox Chase staff as a clinical instructor in surgical oncology on September 1.

Hill and program administrators aimed to resolve this concern by scheduling a “Zoom Happy Hour” during the recruitment process, thus allowing for face-to-face meetings, albeit online, between candidates and current CGSO and breast cancer fellows.

The CGSO’s interview cycle began February 28, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and interviews for the breast oncology fellowship program began two weeks after that. But within two weeks of the pandemic being declared, both programs were able to shift to the virtual format.

Instead of a physical packet, candidates received additional information electronically, which included the program rotation schedule, research opportunities, institutional history, benefits, and staff members. They also received video links to Fox Chase’s campus, faculties, and facilities.

The virtual interview day began on Zoom with a formal presentation that provided candidates with a general overview of the programs. For CGSO, ten faculty members interviewed ten candidates, while each candidate interviewed with five faculty members. For breast, 14 candidates interviewed with seven individual faculty members. This occurred on two separate sessions and once interviews were complete, faculty meetings were held to begin ranking candidates.

In addition to Hill, other authors included breast fellowship director Richard J. Bleicher, MD, and CGSO fellowship director Jeffrey M. Farma, MD. “No one has routinely done these types of interviews before,” Hill said of the virtual interviews. “Hopefully, others from all branches of medicine can learn from our experience, especially if they are going to have to move towards virtual interviews.”

The editorial, “A How-to Guide: Virtual Interviews in the Era of Social Distancing,” was published in the Journal of Surgical Education.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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